Interventions to reduce the morbidity and mortality of preterm birth can be primary (directed to all women), secondary (aimed at eliminating or reducing existing risk), or tertiary (intended to improve outcomes for preterm infants). Most efforts so far have been tertiary interventions, such as regionalised care, and treatment with antenatal corticosteroids,tocolytic agents, and antibiotics. These measures have reduced perinatal morbidity and mortality, but the incidence of preterm birth is increasing. Advances in primary and secondary care, following strategies used for other complex health problems, such as cervical cancer, will be needed to prevent prematurity-related illness in infants and children.
Lancet 2008; 371: 164–75